HealthEd

If Santa Claus Were Your Patient

Osmosis Team
Published on Dec 25, 2019. Updated on Invalid date.

Osmosis's official Instagram profile often includes references to popular culture, from Star Wars to RuPaul's Drag Race. Our decision to do this is based on cognitive psychology studies that have shown such references, or "anchors," improve memory and retention. 

In the spirit of the holidays we found a surprising number of Christmas references in medicine, ranging from Hemophilia B (also known as Christmas disease) to Christmas tree cataracts that are pathognomonic for myotonic dystrophy. In this post though we wanted to reference the big man himself, Santa Claus. 

Imagine that St. Nick walked into your consultation room and asked to be your patient "because you're such a good little medical student." Where would you begin? With a (long) past medical history? A family history including Santa's brother, Fred? A hat-to-toe physical exam? We're sure you'll figure it out, but to get you started we wanted to quiz you with an Osmosis-like question:

Which of the following conditions is Santa Claus most likely to have?

a. Rosacea
b. Christmas disease
c. Holiday Heart syndrome
d. Nutmeg liver
e. Cardiomegaly

Before we share the "answer" to this question, we wanted to share some research we did on Santa's health because he is getting up there in age. Some sources claim he is more than 550 years old, but the man himself dodged the question by saying he’s “older than the Easter Bunny, but younger than the Tooth Fairy.” Here are some of the concerns we would have if we were Santa’s personal clinicians...

Rosacea

Santa’s characteristically rosy cheeks may indicate a long-standing problem with rosacea, and potentially the associated condition of rhinophyma. Though not known to be contagious, these potential disorders may have been zoonotically spread to Santa from his reindeer, Rudolph, who has been known to suffer from red nose syndrome.

Obesity

In the absence of exact figures, we found estimates that Santa weighs anywhere from 220 lbs to 1,380 lbs and is somewhere between 4′ 3″ and 6′ 7″ tall, which gives him a BMI between 24.8 (just below overweight) and 373, making him an potential candidate for liposuction…and bariatric surgery.

Metabolic syndrome

This is a potential problem because everyone knows Santa has a weakness for sugar- and fat-rich foods. Say only 1% of the 75 million homes he visits each place one glass of milk and one cookie for him: that’s 750,000 cookies and 46,875 gallons of milk. Even if that milk was fat free, he’ll still have a massive tummy ache on December 25th.

Christmas disease

Also known as Hemophilia B, this is a blood-clotting problem named after its first diagnosed patient, Stephen Christmas, and described in the 1952 Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal. Okay, we aren’t actually worried that Santa has this.

Sciatica

Santa has spent hundreds of years lugging heavy sacks of toys to millions of houses. We hope he has good insurance because that is a bad combination for developing lumbar spine problems which may lead to sciatica.

Chronic bronchitis

We hope that all of the “Ho-Ho-Hoing” is intentional and not a manifestation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Prolonged exposure to chimney stacks may have led to COPD-like symptoms.

Dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus lesion

The DMH nucleus is responsible for the emotion of rage. Since Santa has no rage, he may have a minor lesion in that nucleus!

Holiday heart syndrome

 This is an irregular heart beat, such as atrial fibrillation, that can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. We’ll need to strap a holter on him to know for sure.

Nutmeg liver, or cirrhosis

These liver issues may pop up because of fluid congestion or too much “eggnog for adults,” respectively.

Cardiomegaly

Everyone knows Santa has a big heart.

The Osmosis diagnosis

Fortunately, after a detailed examination of Santa’s anatomy, our fears were set aside. We were glad to find out that Santa regularly exercises to improve his hand grip (squeezing tennis balls) and leg strength (squats, deadlifts, and kettleball classes) so that he can carry the over 700 million toys he delivers each year. In addition he “maintains a healthy diet (for most of the year), and regularly gets his cholesterol levels checked by his doctor in the North Pole,” and also “makes sure to have a diet rich in fiber… Omega 3 oil supplements and a daily multi-vitamin in order to maintain his health.”

It seems to us that beneath his portly exterior Santa is actually pretty healthy!

We hope that 2014 brings health, joy, and prosperity to you, our Osmosis learners. Happy Holidays!

But wait... What's the answer?!

Answer: E. Like we said, everyone knows that Santa has a big heart!

This post was originally shared in 2013, but we thought it was worth a revisit. Elements were originally published by Osmosis co-founder Shiv Gaglani on the Medgadget blog: "Are you healthier than Santa?"